The Kendall Corporation, a large company that produces health care products, used operations research to determine cutting patterns for gauze and to manage the gauze inventory at their Augusta, Georgia plant. The company's goals are to ensure that demand is met, to maximize yield, and to minimize the work-in-progress inventory of gauze.
Gauze arrives at the plant in beams that are between 49 and 55 inches wide and 25,000 yards long. The raw beams of gauze are bleached in large vats called kiers. The gauze is then dried and stretched to a pre-determined width in a tenter. Before it is re-rolled, the beams are cut into slits that are discs. These are put into a work-in-progress inventory where it is "pulled" to manufacture products such as bandages, sterile wrappings, and sponges.
Between 18 and 20 slitting schedules per week are now determined by a computer program rather than developed informally by schedulers and tenter operators. Each slitting combination specifies the width to which the gauze should be stretched before it is slit, the combination of slit widths, and what portion of the 25,000 yards should be cut using this combination. The use of a computer program to determine the slitting schedules, rather than relying on operator heuristics, saved Kendall Corporation $500,000 in their first full year of production under the new system.